In previous posts, we talked about the “avoidant personality,” the “approach personality,” and the “disruptive personality” in Aspergers (high functioning autistic) children, teens and adults. In this post, we will examine the fourth and final type called the “fixated personality.”
The fixated personality type can be characterized by a preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and the need to control one’s environment (e.g., to have things in a particular order).
Some of the symptoms of the fixated personality type may include:
- compulsion to make lists and/or schedules
- feelings of excessive doubt and caution
- obsessive need for cleanliness
- perfectionism (that may sometimes interfere with task-completion)
- preoccupation with order and organization
- preoccupation with remembering and paying attention to minute details and facts
- rigid following of rules and regulations
- rigidity or inflexibility of beliefs
- unreasonable insistence that others submit to his way of doing things
Some of the specific behavioral manifestations of the fixated personality type among Aspergers children and teenagers may include:
- repeatedly checking homework
- cleaning rituals
- counting rituals
- grooming rituals (e.g., hand washing, showering, teeth brushing)
- hoarding and collecting things
- ordering or arranging objects
- repeating rituals (e.g., going in and out of doorways, needing to move through spaces in a special way, rereading, erasing, rewriting)
- rituals to prevent harming self or others
- rituals to undo contact with a "contaminated" person or object
- touching rituals
Parents can look for the following possible signs of the fixated personality type:
- continual expressions of fear that something terrible will happen
- dramatic increase in laundry
- persistent expressions of fear of illness
- sudden drop in test grades
- exceptionally long amount of time spent getting ready for bed
- high, unexplained utility bills
- holes erased through test papers and homework
- raw, chapped hands from constant washing
- reluctance to leave the house
- requests for family members to repeat strange phrases or keep answering the same question
- unproductive hours spent doing homework
- unusually high rate of soap or paper towel usage
Environmental and stress factors can trigger fixated personality traits. These can include ordinary developmental transitions (e.g., starting school) as well as significant losses or changes (e.g., death of a loved one, moving to a different home or city).
It can be helpful to keep family routines as normal as possible, and for all family members to learn strategies to help the Aspergers youngster. It is also important to not let the “fixations” be the boss of the house and regular family activities. Giving in to fixations does not make them go away.
“Fixated” Aspies become less fixated at different rates, so try to avoid any day-to-day comparisons and recognize and praise any small improvements. Keep in mind that it's the disorder that is causing the problem, not the child. The more that personal criticism can be avoided, the better.
Treatment for the fixated personality type can involve the following:
- Behavior therapy: Discussing with a psychotherapist ways of changing compulsions into healthier, productive behaviors. An effective form of this therapy has been found to be cognitive analytic therapy.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: A systematic approach to changing unwanted thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
- Psychopharmacology: A psychiatrist may be able to prescribe medication to facilitate self-management and also enable more productive participation in other therapies.
- Psychotherapy: Discussion with a trained counselor or psychotherapist who understands the condition.